Sheriff Smith wants to continue tradition

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 28, 2000

Editor’s Note: This is the final installment of a three-part series introducing the candidates in the March 7 primary contest for Lawrence County sheriff.

Monday, February 28, 2000

Editor’s Note: This is the final installment of a three-part series introducing the candidates in the March 7 primary contest for Lawrence County sheriff.

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Lawrence County Sheriff Roy Smith wants another four years in office.

To qualify, he first must face off against fellow republican candidate and Chesapeake Police Chief Russell Bennett in the March 7 primary election.

If he emerges victorious, he will enter the general election in November.

If re-elected, Smith said there are many items he wants to address during his next term.

"The main reason I’m running for re-election is that we’ve made quite a few improvements in the last seven years and I’d like to keep the progress going," he said. "There are still projects I’m currently involved in that I’d like to see through."

During his previous terms as county sheriff, Smith said the department has worked tirelessly to rebuild and revamp existing programs and to acquire new equipment, such as cruisers, so the citizens of Lawrence County could receive the best possible protection.

"We’ve upgraded our cruisers – the vehicles were worn out," he said. "By purchasing a better fleet, the response time is better and the officers have a better chance of catching offenders who try to run."

Additionally, a new radio I-Band system was installed. The benefits of this new system are two-fold, Smith explained.

"Before this system, there were areas of the county that provided no radio reception, so if the deputies were on a call that wasn’t necessarily urgent and an urgent call in that area came in, we could not reach them on the radio to send them to the next call," he said. "Also, if the deputy was in a situation in those areas that became hostile and needed assistance, or if the deputy got hurt, he could not radio back here to request assistance."

With more coverage areas, dispatchers are able to avoid calling out additional officers and costing the county more money in overtime pay, Smith said.

During Smith’s two terms, the second of which is nearing completion, a new telephone system also has been installed. The new system will answer the phones automatically when the dispatchers cannot and it will allow the caller to leave a message instead of not receiving an answer.

"We have never had money in the equipment budget, so anything we have been able to purchase has come from the Lawrence County commissioners," Smith said. "We’ve worked with them on our equipment requests and we’re going to continue working with them to find a way to provide the county with a new jail facility."

A new jail would replace the 52-bed building across from the county courthouse and would help keep things flowing better in the courts as well.

"The judges are all very willing to work with us if we have a situation where the jail is full, but this facility was outdated almost before it was built," Smith said. "When this jail opened the city jail closed and we take all the prisoners from the county."

The number of officers on the road also has increased during Smith’s term as sheriff, he said. If re-elected, he said he will work to keep increasing those numbers.

"We have 15 officers now, but there were only eight when I was first elected sheriff," he said. "This is a large county, maybe not in terms of population but definitely in terms of mileage, so we need more officers to cover it."

And the sheriff said more deputies also are needed to continue the fight against drugs.

"We know that a lot of our criminal activity, like breaking and entering calls, shoplifting reports and so forth, happen because these people are trying to get money for buying drugs," Smith said. "We must go back to the root of the problem to solve it. The drug dealers do greatly outnumber us, but in the last few years we’ve had many arrests."

In March of 1998, the department took down several dealers and buyers, both federally and locally. And, more than $300,000 in merchandise was recovered recently in Burlington, Smith said.

"I’m still a working sheriff," Smith said. "When the officers are out there on a drug raid or a search warrant or somewhere there is some danger I’m usually out there backing them up."

Smith and his wife of 36 years, Christina, are county natives. Smith served in the U.S. Air Force, spent 25 years on the Ohio Highway Patrol before being elected sheriff in 1992. He is the father of three and the grandfather of six.